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Chan Wan Seong And Our Senior Badminton Athletes Keep Our Flag Flying High

This post is about four years late.  Well better late than never. Today I want to share some info about a relatively unknown, very under-appreciated yet highly committed and motivated group of athletes who continuously do the country proud.

There is something called the Badminton World Senior Championships which are a series of active badminton tournaments for “senior” or above 50-year old badminton players.

And in Malaysia there is a small group of very active senior badminton players who participate in these senior badminton tournaments all over the world. One of them is this man in this Star news article here – Chan Wan Seong. 

Ok I have to declare my “interest”.  I have known Chan Wan Seong since 1987 when I got my first banking job with United Overseas Bank (a Singapore bank with quite a few branches in Malaysia). At that time it was known as Chung Khiaw Bank. I was a freshie banker and Wan Seong was my immediate supervisor.  About 10 years later for a short while I was an Assistant General Manager at Arab Malaysian Merchant Bank or Ambank. Once again Chan Wan Seong was a General Manager there. 

Here is The Star with a pretty interesting write up about Chan Wan Seong and the Senior Badminton Championships.

Winners don’t quit: Chan Wan Seong won bronze medals at the 2015 and 2017 BWF World Senior championships.

PJ : never too late to chase one’s dream, even if it seems impossible.

Ask Chan Wan Seong

a living testament of the aged old cry of nothing being impossible

66-year-old started out as a poverty-stricken infant left in a welfare home 

went on to graduate with an economics degree

become executive VP of Ambank Group 

now sits on the board of a furniture company

at an advanced age, he went back to an early love – badminton

he became world senior badminton bronze medallist – twice! 

His is a real rags-to-riches story.

“Who would have thought a child from a welfare home would have made this far?, ” said Wan Seong.

“My father was a roadside petty hawker and when he died in 1955, my expectant mother (Law Swee Kam) and her five children were left destitute.

“I was just 16 months old then. A Chinese newspaper was kind enough to publish our family’s plight, appealing for donations for the funeral expenses and for temporary support, ” said Wan Seong, who still has the old newspaper clipping.

Unable to cope, his mother was eventually forced to leave him, his eldest brother and a sister at the Kampar Children’s Welfare Home, about 40km from their hometown of Ipoh. His eldest sister had to quit school at 13 to work as a stay-in housemaid.

“I can still vaguely remember pining and waiting for my mother’s monthly visits at a time when public transport to Kampar was scarce, ” said Wan Seong.

Six years later, his mother finally took him out of the welfare home and they moved in to a low-cost flat in Ipoh. He was almost eight and had completed his Standard One.

“Behind the flats, there was an outdoor court and it was here that I started to play the game with other children, barefooted and with a part-wooden racquet, ” he said.

He was a natural at the sport. At 12, he played at first singles as his school emerged as the runners-up in the Perak Schools State Under-12 tournament. At 18 in 1973, he swept both the singles and doubles titles in the Perak Under-20 meet.

That caught the eye of one of Malaysia’s world-famous players (now Datuk) Tan Yee Khan, who had won the All-England doubles title with Ng Boon Bee in 1965. Wan Seong started training in the state team with former Thomas Cupper Dominic Soong, who later replaced Boon Bee as Punch Gunalan’s doubles partner.

“The hardest time was from Form One to Form 6 as I had to shuttle between badminton and studies due to my family’s financial difficulties. With hard work, self-discipline and great determination, I excelled in both, ” he said.

Wan Seong is indebted to Yee Khan and his schoolteacher Sam Chong for helping him get into Universiti Malaya where he did his degree in economics, majoring in business administration.

“I can never forget the good deeds of my coach Yee Khan. I was the only player in the state team to make it to the university, it was hard to get a place because of the quota system then. He knew my financial predicament and brought me to see a business tycoon, ” he said.

“I did not get it but I appreciated Yee Khan’s gesture. He is known as a tough coach but has a good heart.

“Through my teacher’s assistance, I managed to get a foreign club to support my first year university studies, ” added Wan Seong, who received funding from Colgate-Palmolive.

“I would not have gotten the Colgate-Palmolive funding if not for my involvement in badminton.

“I strongly believe that my perseverance and badminton exploits were the decisive factors in projecting me as an all-rounder. I received RM3,000 to cover my second and third year, and I was even able to give some surplus to my mum.”

Wan Seong loved the game, so he never gave up the sport.

  • in 2006 he tested himself in an international tournament 
  • won silver in the 50-54 category of the World Chinese meet
  • In 2015, he became the champion in the 60-64 category
  • won medals at All-England Senior Championships
  • World Chinese Championships
  • World Masters Games and a host of other tournaments

jewel was winning bronze at 2015, 2017 BWF World Senior championships

My family started out with nothing. Badminton was an outlet for me to excel and it has helped finance my education through the scholarships. It has inculcated self-discipline and built in me a strong fighting spirit and character to overcome challenges, ” he said.

“My mum, now 98, has also instilled in us the virtues of putting in honest effort and hard work. We are thankful that we have made her feel that her struggles and sacrifices have not been in vain.

“Although one can be humbly proud of one’s achievements, one must avoid the ‘pride trap’ and never ever forget one’s roots.”

Looking back at his life, Wan Seong feels blessed. Now, he hopes to encourage youngsters, especially the underprivileged, to reach for the stars.

My comments :

Congratulations Chan Wan Seong on a life well lived. 

There are a few other points that need to be highlighted. These Senior Badminton players are almost fully self funded. They win medals and tournaments all over the world for Malaysia but they pay for their own travel and lodging expenses. They also pay for the participation fees in all these tournaments.

The Ministry of Sports should look into not only assisting our warga emas shuttlers who do the nation proud in these international tournaments but why not develop our own Senior Badminton Championships on a grander scale? 

Obviously Malaysia is still a badminton playing country. We have the players including the seniors and veterans. We have the athletes and the muscle to develop national and regional level senior badminton championships. 

Who is the Minister of Sports ah?

Anyway my congrats to my former colleague and friend Chan Wan Seong. I am happy for Wan Seong that his 98 year old mother lived to see her sacrifices and her efforts for her children bearing fruit.  

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